Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-20-2012


Objectives: This paper explores the range of self-tracking devices and social media platforms used by the self-tracking community, and examines the implications of widespread adoption of these tools for scientific progress in health informatics. Methods: A literature review was performed to investigate the use of social media and self-tracking technologies in the health sector. An environmental scan identified a range of products and services which were used to exemplify three levels of self-tracking: self-experi- mentation, social sharing of data and patient controlled electronic health records. Results: There appears to be an increase in the use of self-tracking tools, particularly in the health and fitness sector, but also used in the management of chronic diseases. Evidence of efficacy and effectiveness is limited to date, primarily due to the health and fitness focus of current solutions as opposed to their use in dis- ease management. Conclusions: Several key technologies are converging to produce a trend of increased personal health surveillance and monitoring, so- cial connectedness and sharing, and integration of regional and national health information systems. These trends are enabling new applications of scientific techniques, from personal experimentation to e-epidemiology, as data gathered by individuals are aggregated and shared across increasingly connected healthcare networks. These trends also raise significant new ethical and scientific issues that will need to be addressed, both by health informatics researchers and the communities of self-trackers themselves.


The article is published in IMIA Yearbook of Medical Informatics 2012.